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Latest News! 19th April, 2018

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J.W.Sauer bridge J.W.Sauer bridge - Photo: Dennis Walters

Eastern Cape Highlands - the mecca of high altitude gravel passes

This news release comes to you whilst both the filming teams are very busy in Mpumalanga trying to peg down the 37 passes on our to do list. Whilst we are up in the forested mountains of Mpumalanga testing our skills against the elements and the back-roads, we take you off to a really remote, but stunning gravel pass in the Eastern Cape Highlands. This off the beaten track would not be out of place to be included in the Ben 10 Challenge. It offers breathtaking scenery, in a remote and wild setting with some technical driving added to the mix, which makes it a winner. (More lower down....)

 

Michel's Pass (Hogsback)

For the past 10 years or so, this pass (which could at one stage be driven in a Morris Minor), literally fell off the map, as local authorities completely disregarded and neglected it. Like so many minor roads in rural South Africa, it gradually became branded as a 4x4 route - a natural process of road deterioration marketed to the off-road fraternity as a tourist attraction. The road got worse and worse and eventually a major rockfall blocked the road completely. Infestations of black wattle formed a tunnel over the road, spoiling the fantastic views on offer. (More lower down.....)

When we attempted filming this pass in May 2016, we were forced to turn back halfway down the descent due to a massive rock blocking the road. At the time we wrote:

"Many GPS units direct unsuspecting motorists to Hogsback via this pass utlising the "shortest route" option. Many have got stuck on the pass, often at night and rescue and recovery operations have needed to be launched by guest house and hotel operators in the area. The pass gets damaged by rock falls and washaways from time to time, so always first check with a knowledgable local before tackling this road."

We also wrote this about Michel's Pass: "The local authorities need to seriously consider the tourism advantages to the very poor communities living in this area, by doing maintenance work on this road. It wouldn't cost a fortune to reinstate the road. The clearing of invasive trees, could provide meaningful employment for locals, whilst at the same time dealing with long term environmental issues. From all our research, it would appear that no maintenance work has been done on Michel's Pass in the last 10 years - maybe longer."

So here we are exactly two years later and we have just received a report from one of our readers who informs us that the pass has undergone major maintenance and much of the alien vegetation has been cleared as well, making this pass once again driveable in a 4x2 vehicle with wonderful views on display. So, did the local authority in Hogsback hear our pleas? It doesn't matter what the motivation was, but it is exceedingly good news for everyone in the Hogsback area and for tourism in general. Whoever was the decision maker - give that man a Bells!

If you want to watch the original video of what it looked like before the upgrade, go here. So now we have a perfectly good reason to return to Hogsback!

Featured Pass

Finding this pass, requires a bit of A-grade navigation. It's between Rossouw and Barkly East and involves a lengthy detour, but the rewards are worth every extra kilometre driven. So if you're driving the Ben 10 Eco Challenge and you still want some more gravel travel, add this one to your bucket list.

* * * * *    H E U N I N G N E S K L O O F    P A S S   * * * * *

New passes added this week:

Sandy's Glen Pass - a long and scenic but fairly easy pass in the heart of the Overberg region.

Groenkloof - a short, steep pass near Pearly Beach in the Southern Cape.

 

Upgraded passes added this week:

Shaw's Mountain Pass (R320) - An easy drive on a new beautiully engineered road between Caledon and Hermanus.

Hemel & Aarde Pass (R320) - Lovely scenery, wine farms and MTB trails close to Hermanus

Karwyderskraal Pass - a rough gravel pass with two summits between the Botrivier estuary and De Bos dam.


Trygve Roberts
Editor

Thought for the day: "Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

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